Dobrik & Lawton: Dramatic, unique bespoke tailoring

Friday, September 18th 2020
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Dobrik & Lawton is two young tailors, Joshua Dobrik and Kimberley Lawton, that have set up on their own in their house in Walthamstow, north-east London.

Their look is unusual and dramatic. It’s not something I’d personally wear, and I’d imagine it will remain niche – both because of the style and because of the Savile Row prices.

But it deserves to be covered and perhaps celebrated, because it brings something fresh to an industry that can often be staid, and because their work is being done to such a high level.

The cut is structured and angular. Square padded shoulders, lots of roping and a longer jacket with a close waist, which emphasises the shape of the skirt.

So far, not so different from houses such as Huntsman or Edward Sexton, where the two trained.

The difference comes in a handful of things, some subtle and some less.

A subtle point is the peak lapel, which is straight, wide and sharp. The collar is proportionally small, creating more of a gap between the two and emphasising that point further.

Less subtle are the pointed patch pockets, the diamonds on the front of a belt or the inside hip, and the dramatic details added to the back of some jackets: staggered darts, sun-ray patterns and other decorative seam work.

The two images illustrate the more and less subtle versions of the style. Below are some of those intricate backs.

These last things are still subtle from a distance. From across the street a Dobrik & Lawton piece might look like any regular, structured suit. As Joshua says, it’s really not meant to be showy.

But from close-up, it is showing off – specifically, showing off the full potential of the tailor’s art: demonstrating what is possible, what can be achieved with painstaking bespoke.

And I think you probably have to be this kind of customer to be attracted to Kimberley and Joshua’s style.

Whether you are particularly drawn by their seam work or their design work – the decorative back or the Moroccan battle dress (below) – it is this exploratory, experimental bespoke that will make you a D&L customer.

Using a contact in Como they have also been able to develop some bespoke linings, shown in the third image below.

There are many other examples of this work hanging around the workshop.

One friend is having a siren suit made; someone else is designing a cameraman’s coat; my dear friend Edmund is having a long jacket made with work inspired by his home of Texas: there is a yoke, so no shoulder seam, and the yoke runs straight into the back seam of each sleeve (the green jacket shown in front of a mirror, above).

As this list probably makes clear, a lot of clients are friends, some from around the industry, and others are what we might call bespoke enthusiasts: young guys who have already tried Savile Row and Neapolitan tailors, and are looking for something new.

There is also the occasional celebrity. On the Dobrik & Lawton website, they document the work required to make a iridescent winged outfit for Brian May – to wear as he rose through the stage on tour, playing the guitar solo from Bohemian Rhapsody.

If you ever visit Kimberley and Joshua, it’s worth asking about having to saddle stitch those wings at 3 o’clock in the morning. Or about visiting Brian May’s house - sorry, houses, one for each of the two cats.

I’ve had some readers that are also D&L customers talk about how nice it is to visit the Walthamstow operation, and I can see why.

This is not a glamorous location. It’s a good distance, on a main road, in the front room of the house. But also because it’s Joshua and Kimberley’s home, a certain warmth and friendliness is inevitable. Cups of tea and biscuits are served, other commissions discussed that are hanging variously around. Customers quickly become friends.

It is the antithesis of a snooty Savile Row walk-up.

And of course the pair travel a lot to customers. To hotel suites, to people’s houses, anywhere. There are no official trips abroad yet, but moving around London for appointments is standard.

Returning to the house style, it should be said that more moderate versions of the look are always available. Joshua says his trousers have an average of a 35-inch bottom; customers are more likely to have 20 or 22.

But still, it’s a good distance from the 16 inches that might be standard on the Row, and there’s no point going to a tailor with such a strong style if it doesn’t appeal to you.

For context, it’s worth considering what the Dobrik & Lawton style is inspired by: principally Hollywood costume from the 1930s, such as the work of Adrian Greenburg (below).

Those old MGM films perfectly demonstrate the combination of impact and elegance at work here: idiosyncratic designs all, but are also beautifully executed. Greenburg’s fashion show in the film The Women is worth a watch, even if it is all womenswear.

I have no plans to ask Kimberley and Joshua to make me something. I’m less attracted to seam work, appliqué or overlay, or to exploring all the potential of pattern cutting.

But I hugely admire what they’re doing, particularly for their dedication to the craft.

I should have said that they are both cutting and making a lot of things themselves. Some go to a single coatmaker, but only when the work required is simple enough (Joshua: “We need to be able to put it all on two sheets of A4”).

And all the fittings are being done in-house, usually with several bastes before going to a finished suit. Kimberley: “I see that being done more and more these days. If you’re working on your own, it’s so much more efficient – you don’t need to involve the coatmaker until the end, and you can perfect the fit yourself quickly and easily. It meant we could fit one customer twice recently, in the three days he was in London.”

I wish both of them all the best, and hope to see many unique garments coming out of that house in years to come.

Suits start at £4950 including VAT.

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

www.dobrikandlawton.com

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Anonymous

Wow not cheap! But very interesting, thank you for the young tailor features.

When Kimberly was at Drakes always thought she had a very unique style and good customer manner

Any other young guns that you are planning to cover ?

Anonymous

Francis Paley please

Anonymous

Seconded.

GT

Thirded if thats not excessive

SC

Agree!

Burt

In that case Laura and Reza as well. The three of them left Chittleborough & Morgan in 2019. Not sure how different their cuts are from the master, though. I guess they’re all three still in the process of building up.

Lindsay Eric McKee

Very nice to see you covering Dobrik and Lawton. Great to see new skills and talent here.
The lapels are way too wide for me, wider than say Chittlrborough or Sexton but, hey, maybe you will ” give them a go” one day, and see how they can adopt to a customers requirements.
I wish them well.
A great new post here Simon.

Burt

Interesting read, thank you. Tradition is important, but so are renewal & experimenting in order to keep the craft alive. Especially at a moment where quite some young tailors leave SR and establish own businesses. Is it a movement or too early to say so?
Good luck to D&L 🙂

Rich H

Simon, you sometimes mention ‘niche’ or ‘small’ in reference to tailoring houses and I was just wondering what you mean? In my head I take ‘niche’ or ‘small’ to refer to a house that makes 500 or fewer bespoke pieces per year and ‘large’ to up to 1000 bespoke pieces per year. Is this a fair assumption or am I way out?

Anonymous

I doubt these guys are doing anywhere near 150, that would be nearing a cheeky £750k a year rev!

Anonymous

Yes. And I’m sure if you have a shop / space in central London your rent makes up a disgustingly high fixed cost

C.

Let’s not forget Nutter in the 70’s. Much of his stuff was garish and would never have been worn by your stereotypical Brit but that willingness to push boundaries in bespoke menswear produced Sexton, today, by many accounts, one of the most respected of the SR houses.

Sometimes it’s that willingness to embrace avant-garde or daring designs that might not have a place in today’s traditional settings that can have a lasting impact on menswear-of-the-future. Who know what might be borne from this house? Kudos to these two for their risk and dedication to embracing their unique vision.

Jason

Good point.
I was thinking exactly the same thing.
It was interpretation of ‘Nutter’s Style’ that gave rise to so many things – Lincroft, Harold Tillman etc…
What goes around comes around. That said I think it will be a while before we see a return to a widespread adoption of structured styles. But, who knows ? Each flaneur to their own and certainly these guys need to be appreciated for their craft.

Luke

Hi Simon,

Perhaps you mean ‘antithesis’ and not ‘apotheosis’? Thought I’d flag it just in case.

Daniel

Just following on from C’s comment and reminiscing. I remember buying a ready made Tommy Nutter shirt from Fortnum and Mason in 1982. It was in royal blue poplin with a longish point white collar. Very 1980’s . Great tieless with a grey jacket. I loved it.

Stephen

Whilst not for me it’s great to see some young tailors pushing boundaries, being able to do something that is very bespoke. They could do extremely well with work for actors, artists etc. Nice to see Kimberley who I remember from Drakes.

P Lewis

Brian May:
Bespoke guitar (hand built by himself and his father), bespoke amp (built by John Deacon no less) and now a bespoke stage outfit. I wonder if his white clogs are bespoke?

Anonymous

How can you post about two people who both got sacked from huntsman that charge an arm and a leg and don’t make anything or have a shop
But not write about Dan Macangus who you have know has worked hard for 19 years
It’s just baffling

Rups

Joshua Dobrik worked for Edward Sexton not Huntsman. Kimberley worked at Huntsman. What do you mean that they dont make anything? They are making suits are they not?

Lee butler

love their stuff. yet another thing i will never be able to afford though.

Al

Simon: talking of “young” tailors will you ever review Sciamat? I think you’d said it’s not your cup of tea but I find Ricci has a clear, unique vision of what his suits should be when he says they must defy gravity and strive upward. Not to mention I find some of his works among the most elegant too.

Al

Thanks for the reply. Would like to know why you do find the brand gimmicky but I understand this post is about other tailors.

Robert Giaimo

At first glance, I thought the comments from those following a more traditionalist focused website would be overwhelmingly negative. How refreshing that most seem to appreciate a team that is doing something unique and realize the art of it. Thank goodness there are those, both makers and wearers, that are looking for something different and shun the cookie cutter approach. Thanks Simon for featuring Dobrik & Lawton.

Dr Peter

Fascinating! I liked this article and the images so much, Simon, that I took the liberty of providing the link to another forum I am a member of, “Ask Andy About Clothes”. I think experimental efforts in tailoring offer us a peek into current and future trends in the design of clothes, and what sorts of fusions and collaborations, what kinds of influences, are going to change clothing in the near future. I will also recommend Ask Andy’s to you and the readers of this blog. There is a fine group of people there engaging in interesting discussions of style and design.

MB.S

Whilst I appreciate the need to cover younger tailors and a diverse range of styles, I do wonder whether this is teetering on the boundaries of what we might call ‘classical tailoring’. Indeed, from my perspective, this is so stark a departure from the principles of classical menswear that it is simply extraneous to it. Dramatic tailoring is one thing — indeed, I think PS has covered this as well as anyone — but this is a kind of radical separatism that even the staunchest fundamentalist would think twice about. Some might celebrate and applaud this spirit as one that does away with imagined boundaries, but this isn’t particularly compelling. Classical tailoring does not exist in a Lockean state of nature where there is an absence of rules. Rather, we impart rules that are intended to preserve the craftsmanship and to prevent the declension of the craft. Ersatz interpretations like this are therefore an affront to the tradition. There is nothing new or exciting about two white, presumably middle class, upstarts overcharging for abrupt American tailoring. There is, however, something that is quite offensive about it. One wonders and can think of many tailors of colour who could’ve been covered in this piece who are doing far more remarkable work. *washes eyes*

Observer

I think this is unfair Simon, MB.S makes some good points, particularly on race. How many young tailors from a minority ethnic background are afforded opportunities like this? Your apparent suggestion that opportunity bears no relationship to someone’s race is, at best, ill informed and potentially even ignorant. Tailoring and the coverage of the industry is incredibly homogenous, there is no denying that.

Ed

Well said Simon and fully agreed.

As one of the ‘ethnic minority’ that Observer mentions and as far as I’m concerned, this blog in no way has ever discriminated, neither sought to focus on a particular tailor (or in this specific case, tailors) based on anything on merit which is what it should solely be about.

I would point out to Observer and MB.S that were I a tailor I would only want to be written about based on my skills/abilities and never, ever because of my race – to be covered on this blog for that reason, under ANY circumstance, would be a personal insult.

Dobrik and Lawton’s work may not to be everyones taste and such, it’s a viable point of debate; but let us only focus on the quality of their work and not their ethnic background (or social class), please.

concernedblackman

This concept of ‘’merit” is utterly fallacious, Arendt explained why 50 odd years ago Ed. Indeed, the idea has done nothing but perpetuate inequality and is amongst one of the many ideological tools the ‘Right’ has fostered to convince people like yourself — Pollyanna to the point of abstraction — that equality of opportunity is real. Of course, there is no such thing.

MB.S & Observer are right — at a time where racial justice is front and centre of our national conversation — to measure whether platforms of influence are doing all they can to affect change or simply continuing to reinforce the status quo i.e. by covering two white arrivistes charging top dollar for ‘tailoring’ that has no utility other than to satiate the myopic and ephemeral visions of a privileged few.

Your response to their comments Simon are also profoundly disappointing and regrettably —at least for me — makes me rethink my relationship to this blog and indeed my custom at PS. There is a positive duty on you to identify talent, sure, but there is an equally live responsibility to recognise how privilege — prosaically, by the virtue of their race, afforded to both of these tailors — plays a massive part in who you cover.

Burt

I cannot see what’s wrong with renewal and experimenting if the level of execution is high? Think of Davide Taub’s driving jacket.
I’d certainly welcome more articles like these. And yes, also about female tailors (Caroline Andrew, Jenny Adamson) or what MB.S calls tailors of colour (Lee Marsh, Paul Jheeta?) however not sure what sets the apart?
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” 🙂

Jay

This style is maybe too much for around an office, but I find it particularly elegant for special occasions. That dinner jacket and tweet coat are absolutely spectacular, with the later being even quite conservative compared to a Huntsman shooting jacket in a country setting. Thank you for highlighting these wonderful tailors!

TexMex

Hi Simon – Thank you for sharing so much knowledge on bespoke tailoring. I have learned virtually everything I know from you over past several months. Problem is – I am ready to purchase bespoke but no one to work with. No trunk shows because of COVID. (I’m located in Texas). Would you consider doing some writing on when tailors plan to travel again? Also, what tailors do you recommend for first time so we get a good value product since I know it can take several tries to figure out your style. Thanks.

Ben

I’d wear the HELL out of that houndstooth tweed in the third photo from the bottom…

Ian A

I thought Kimberley looked familiar from Drake’s! She’s very down to earth and passionate about clothes and was very helpful there when I’ve shopped there. I’ve worn all the clothes she sold me and I envision my repair tailors throwing it back at me before i ever give them up with the usual excuse as they ‘have too many Veddings Darlinks’.

The clothes they tailor are completely out of my price range and possibly style sadly. I’m guessing that no part of the process is done by machine And that everything is hand sewn.

Edmund

Coat maker to the trade